Installation view of Nasty Women at Gavlak Gallery, Los Angeles (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — Coming in at 57 artists, some with multiple works in the exhibition, you would be hard-pressed not to find something you like in Nasty Women, a group exhibition of female-identified artists currently on view at Gavlak Gallery. Opening on the heels of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, the show reclaims the infamous insult hurled at Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump as its namesake, and the works within celebrate women’s contributions, often un- or under-recognized, to art. Notably, during Nasty Women’s run Trump lost his bid for re-election to President-elect Joe Biden, making his running-mate Kamala Harris the first female Vice President and the highest ranking woman in the United States government ever.

Left to right: Trulee Hall, “Phallic Female” 2019, mixed media, 60 x 29 x 19 inches; Whitney Bedford, “Gloria Steinem (Fist)” (2020), graphite on arches paper, 30 x 22 inches; Linda Stark, “Feminist” (2011), acrylic, watercolor and graphite on perforated paper, 11 x 15 inches; April Bey, “Atlantica Archives (Earth’s Feminism) II” (2020), digitally printed woven blanket with hand-sewn “African” Chinese knock off wax fabric and glitter, 80 x 60 inches; Nasty Women, Gavlak Gallery, Los Angeles

The show features some stunners such as Viola Frey’s “Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands” (2004), whose massive ceramic presence conveys both technical expertise and an unapologetic embrace of the naked female form, and Delia Brown’s “Untitled Nude (Purple Robe)” (2020), which likewise depicts a bold nude woman who gives off an air of confident sexuality through her unashamed pose and fixed gaze. Also included are some historical artworks, such as “Anonymous Self-Portrait, Half Length,” made by an unknown female student at the Emilian School in the 17th century. The artist’s anonymity emphasizes the political inequality Nasty Women seeks to reform, by showcasing the accomplishments of female and female-identified artists in an art canon that has been constructed almost exclusively by men to the historical detriment of women.

Installation view, Nasty Women, Gavlak Gallery, Los Angeles

Despite these important gestures, however, the numerous artworks feel stuffed in the space, as if they were thrown together with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality. The overall effect is that the individual works suffer from lack of space. That being said, the privilege of walking through a room full of works by contemporary hits such as Trulee Hall, Lisa Anne Auerbach, and Jesse Mockrin alongside canonical powerhouses Helen Frankenthaler, Jenny Holzer, and Joan Semmel, makes the exhibition worth the trip, even if afterwards you may need to rest your eyes for a few minutes to give them an optical break.

Delia Brown, “Untitled Nude (Purple Robe)” (2020), oil on linen, Los Angeles
Joan Semmel, “White Skin” (2018), oil on canvas, 38 x 50 inches   
Lisa Anne Auerbach, “Cheer for Choice” (2007), merino wool

Nasty Women continues at Gavlak Gallery (1700 South Santa Fe Avenue, Suite 440, Downtown, Los Angeles) through December 12.

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Jennifer Remenchik

Jennifer Remenchik is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles.